The Southern Spirit of Innovation
The South's participation in the "innovation economy" includes initiatives to build R&D and boost prosperity in the region's high-tech industries.
Steve Stackhouse-Kaelble (Southern Tech Sites 2007)
(page 2 of 4)
promises of biotechnology need little repetition here. Like regions
around the world, the South is aiming to build upon biotech successes
to create an atmosphere for more advances. The Southern Biotechnology
Initiative is one such effort, bringing together such partners as
Southeast BIO and BioSouth (formerly the Southern U.S. International
For now, the initiative is divided into two key
parts. First is the development of an asset map detailing where in the
South there are concentrations of biotechnology research,
infrastructure, and funding. Such a map will make it clear where the
strongest bioclusters can be found. The initiative's second major
mission is to take that information and present it in a cohesive way
when the biotech world gathers in Atlanta for the BIO 2009 conference.
won't be a difficult case to make. Already, the region has plenty of
strengths when it comes to biotechnology. For example, Ernst &
Young's "Beyond Borders: The Global Biotechnology Report 2006" names
North Carolina as America's third-most-active biotech cluster, behind
only California and Massachusetts. Playing a large role in that ranking
is the presence of the state's Research Triangle Park - which includes
three world-class universities and is home to 88 biotech companies and
100 biotech-related firms.
Georgia, Texas, and Florida also rank
in the top 10. And biotech clusters can be found in such places as
Austin, Gainesville, Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham, and Charleston, to
name just a few. The presence of strong research universities is a key,
and beyond that, life-sciences incubators dot the Southern map.
life science advances are promoted by BioSouth - a Georgia-based
organization dedicated to the advancement of Southern bioscience
companies and institutions. The organization sponsors regular
conferences and programs that support technology commercialization and
Part of the effort to boost biosciences
involves growing research capabilities. For example, Missouri's Center
for Emerging Technologies provides services and facilities designed to
accelerate the growth of biomedical and other advanced technology
Another part is leveraging the region's existing
strengths. Consider the case of the Memphis area. Thanks in large part
to the presence of FedEx, Memphis could be considered the capital of
logistics. Now, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation is working to make it
the capital of "biologistics," serving the needs of pharmaceutical
companies and scientists who need to quickly manufacture, pack, and
ship medications and other medical supplies.
There are plenty of
other examples of biotech activities that are not just
research-focused. In North Carolina, for example, the state's community
college biotechnology initiative, called NCCCS BioNetwork, is said to
be the leading network of specialized education and training for
biotechnology-related business. Its six BioNetwork centers offer
specialized training and employ staff recruited directly from industry.
days there may be no scientific topic any hotter than energy. With
prices for gasoline and other forms of energy going through the roof,
there's unprecedented interest in finding new efficiencies and
alternative energy sources. That's what the Southern Energy Initiative
is all about.
Providing some direction to the initiative is the
Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The organization and the
Southern Growth Policies Board pulled together the first bioenergy
retreat last fall, assembling about 80 bioenergy leaders from across
the South to discuss how to further develop their sector. The group
determined to create a regional bioenergy organization, an R&D
network, and a bioenergy commercialization committee.
this year, the Southern Growth Policies Board and the Southeast
Agriculture and Forestry Energy Alliance Steering Committee announced
the creation of a new Southeast Agriculture & Forestry Energy
Alliance. The group unites organizations and individuals from the
agricultural, forestry, conservation, and environmental communities
along with researchers, industry representatives, and others with an
interest in renewable energy. The result is to be a network that will
collect and share critical information for the commercialization of
Plenty of energy-related
innovations are already in the works in the South. At Georgia Tech, for
example, the Strategic Energy Initiative approaches energy research
from a number of angles. Research into alternative sources includes a
focus on ways to efficiently and cost-effectively create ethanol from
Southern pine trees, which will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and
sustain the South's forest-products industry. The initiative is also
exploring ways to increase energy efficiency by improving combustion
processes and lighting efficiencies, among other measures.
has also begun on the first bio-diesel plant in a 16-county area of
East Tennessee known as the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley.
Northington Energy's $3 million facility near Wartburg in Morgan County
will convert soybeans into fuel. Company officials have announced they
will use the facility to work with Volkswagen and Suzuki on an engine
testing program involving highly refined bio-fuels for auto racing.